How to Deal With Automatic Negative Thoughts
Updated: Aug 29, 2022
Automatic negative thoughts are negative, self-critical, harsh, unsupportive thoughts that flood your mind in response to various interactions and emotions that come up as a result. The thoughts arrive automatically as a method of trying to handle the emotional experience, mainly by avoiding and surprising the emotions through the very negative thoughts that cycle intensely in a knee-jerk, instinctual reaction to the feelings.
Besides feelings, we all deal with thoughts throughout the day. We use them to help us manage feelings and deal with situations. And based on our thoughts, we have feelings and form our approach to things. As such, automatic negative thoughts can bring us down.
Take a moment to consider how you react to various difficulties, challenges, emotions, and stress during the day. What do you think or tell yourself? Is there a strongly negative reaction attached to those occurrences and events?
Many people develop a pattern of negative thoughts and reactions over time. Let’s work on identifying these negative thoughts that can interfere with our ability to tune into, accept, and connect to our Inner Child's emotions and feelings.
The Process of Negative Thoughts
You may not be aware of these thoughts, or you may notice them but struggle to overcome them because they are AUTOMATIC THOUGHTS, which happen very quickly in response to a situation and can influence what we believe and how feel.
Situation ➤ Automatic Thought ➤ Emotion or Behavior
Sometimes, automatic thoughts are based on faulty or incomplete information or predict the wrong future. It might turn out later that how you responded to the automatic thought was what caused you to react, be highly triggered and unclear, and struggle to tune into and accept your feelings, using them to connect to your Child Self.
Making a mistake ➤ “I’m so stupid” ➤ angry with self, frustrated, ruminate on how bad you are
In this example, the automatic thought is understandable given how challenging it can be to make a mistake and have to deal with the consequences. However, it also makes the problem worse by making you feel frustrated and keeping you ruminating, stuck in putting yourself down, and sticking with feeling negative and bad about yourself.
What are some of your automatic thoughts that come up throughout the day?
Addressing unhelpful automatic thoughts requires becoming aware of them first. Practice noticing automatic thoughts using the Thought Record. Try to note down at least one per day, and as many as come to mind. The more you practice, the better you’ll become at changing your relationship with your feelings, and the more access you’ll gain to your Inner Child's feelings and unmet emotional needs.
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